Classic Countdown: The 5 factor

Five is an undeniably great number that factors very prominently into a string of the greatest Classic performances in history.

Five is an undeniably great number. Not only is it the number of fingers or toes we have on our hands and feet, it's also a number that factors very prominently into a string of the greatest Classic performances in history.

The angler involved is none other than Kevin VanDam, the Kalamazoo Kid. Certainly the greatest angler of his generation, KVD should have quite a few good years left in which to strengthen his claim to being the very best of all-time.

And one of the cornerstones of his rèsumè should be his recent Classic performances.

In the past five Classics VanDam has finished no worse than — you guessed it — fifth. It's the best 5-year string ever posted in Classic history.

In that stretch VanDam has won once, finished third three times and fifth once. To find a comparable run, you've got to go back to the late 1970s when Rick Clunn won two in a row (1976 and 1977), finished second once (1978) and capped off his run by finishing fourth in 1979. Clunn's streak ends there — after four Classics. In the fifth of that string he slipped to 15th in 1980. VanDam does him one better.

But things haven't always been so good for VanDam. For many years it looked as though he might share the fate of Roland Martin and Bill Dance — great anglers who could never win the "big one."

In his first 10 Classics KVD posted an extremely respectable five (there it is again!) Top 10 finishes, but he was never better than — one more time — fifth(!). And if you're as competitive as Kevin VanDam, fifth at the Bassmaster Classic is nowhere at all.

That changed, of course, in VanDam's 11th Classic and his second trip to the Louisiana Delta. There he mastered the field and carried home the hardware for the first time. He did it again in 2005 in Pittsburgh and will be vying for a third Classic championship in 2009.

Looking for more fun with fives? Did you know that the first five Bassmaster Classics were winner-take-all tournaments? That's right. If you didn't win (or catch one of the daily big bass), you didn't get paid. For the first two years, top prize was $10,000. For the next three it was $15,000.

And the five-bass limit? Well, it hasn't always been around. The limit was 10 for most of the early years (1971-74 and 1976-77). It was eight in 1975 due to North Carolina state regulations. The limit dropped to seven in 1978 and, with a few exceptions that were (again) due to state regulations, stayed there until 1994. That's when the five-bass limit took hold for good.

Tomorrow we're down to the final four — as in days before the Classic and countdown stories. And four only means one thing when you're talking Bassmaster Classic history.